The San Francisco Sessions - Day 4 February 17th 2nd day of the session

Right, this is getting silly. If you read yesterday’s post you probably got the impression that I’d had a good first day in the studio. I thought so too. But, shadowed by the memory of the second day, it’s hard to believe I’d had any fun at all. Yesterday, I went on a bit about dream-world and reality. Not even my dream-self would have dared to smoke the stuff required to imagine the day I’ve just had. And my giddy, dazed real self doesn’t stand the faintest chance of putting it into words. The music, the stories, real ties even to rock music legends and folklore – these people are the real thing. The day started with a bit of nerdy detail that may not interest everyone [I may come back and update the blog with it later on if I get the time] which helped finish off the first song from the day before. Then we were ready for the next track. Rosalie. Now, my wife and daughter give me more joy than I could possibly express. Nothing comes close to that. And it never could. But, after my family…..

This was the best moment of my entire life.

I played the song through. Matt and Chuck joked about how wrong the chords were. But how it sort of worked. But was very weird. They thought about it for a bit (it is always my favourite bit, just to watch them think – but always frightening because I don’t know whether I’ll be able follow whatever they come up with). Chuck decides to keep the weird B-minor chord but I have to change the next to an A-major, to give them something to work with on the solos. We jam through it a bit, with Chuck joining in for the first time, swapping roles with James by playing slide (James is a master at slide) while James plays banjo (yes, banjo). Chuck’s view is that the song knows what it wants, you just have to listen out for it. I have this in mind as we jam but I don’t really know what to do about it. And as I’m fumbling around with the structure, Chuck berates me, explaining that I’ve got three options. I say ‘explaining’ but, to be honest, I had almost no idea what he said. He was speaking in ‘music’ and I was so transfixed by his shark-eyed glare that I could only squeak my assent. We tried again, I failed, and he said something about a fourth option. He may have mistaken my startled-bunny blinking for dissent. I don’t know. But, anyway, he paused to consider the options. Rather than impose the “right” way he would expect a song like this to go, he decided to explore the “wrong”. See if there was something interesting in the oddness. Proof, here, that I wasn’t just getting his expertise. I was getting his imagination. So, using something close to my original structure (just an extra unsung verse to allow room for a solo – a Chuck Prophet solo) we jammed again. The second take was flawed but we flew. We did 3 more, getting more proficient every time. We went back to the booth to listen. On the way out, Chuck turned to me and said, “it’s a f****** great song!” It nearly made me weep in a way even his cold, hard stare could never (quite) do. We listened to the takes; 3,4 and 5 were good. Matt looked around the room and then turned to me and said, “see, you’ve got us grooving”. But we all agreed with Chuck, “let’s go back to to 2, when we were having FUN”. Kevin went back to redo the bass. He got a good one but suggested he do it again. Matt said he could, “go ahead, we’re just enjoying listening to it in here”. He was still tickled by the weird B-minor. In a day full of memorable quotes, the one I chipped in with was, “sometimes ignorance is good”, exactly, said Matt.

I won’t publish the stories and quotes that flowed through lunch and the afternoon. But I will cherish them. These people know, understand and have been in contact with pretty much everything in popular music. It was a ridiculous idea for me to reach out to them to help with my very first meaningful recording. But I hit the jackpot. There are some very fine musicians and talented producers in England. I know that. But any of them, I’m sure, would have been far too sensible to waste their time with me. I am eternally grateful that these people weren’t that smart. And thrilled beyond words that they’ve had some fun out of it. With an unshiftable grin on my face, we moved on to the next song. Lance Gardino. Having secured a place in the group, I had the nerve to play my part in the decision-making process (a very dry way of describing what, when not frightened, is of the very most fun things in the world). Musical references flying in all directions, from Scott Joplin to Elvis Costello, via the Kinks, we soon settled on an approach. I’ve gone on long enough, so I’ll condense this into bullet points. Some of which are perhaps just for the nerds.

We ditched the piano early on I didn’t play on this at all James played my guitar James Deprato played MY guitar During one of James’s electric guitar overdubs, Terry looked up from his laptop, we looked at each other and just grinned. When I came back into the booth after redoing my vocal, Kevin muttered something to me as he went past (I didn’t quite catch it but I think it was, “good work, Steve”) I turned to Chuck to ask him. He ignored my question and, instead, said “it’s a great track” Later, talking to James about the base track of just acoustic, bass and drums Chuck said, “it means something if a song stands up with just a trio like that. It says a lot for the song”.

It was a good day. And, as Chuck said, the blues one was KICKING.

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